Gravely injured by drunken driver, Joseph Reilly 'beat all the odds'

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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Joseph Reilly has been waiting for his victory shave for nearly 41/2 months.

In that time, as the scruffy dark beard has grown across his face, he's been in a coma, gone through countless surgeries and woken up to weeks of physical therapy.

But the young man is a fighter, and his recovery has been nothing short of a miracle, his doctors said.

"We have a trauma system called the 'injury severity score,' and it maxes out at 75," said Dr. George Dulabon, his physician. "That was him. A 75. People at that level have a very minimal chance of survival. He beat all the odds."

Reilly, 21, suffered a brain contusion and crushed pelvis after being hit by a speeding car while walking to work at Smokey's Hot Oven Pizza on Nov. 27. He's been in hospitals or assisted living facilities ever since.

The driver, Annastasia Morrison, 20, had a blood alcohol level of 0.26 percent, according to a report by the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

She was killed in the crash.

After weeks of hard work and the help of his mother, Terrina Vough, who has barely left his side, Reilly can now speak and stand up for a short period of time, and -- most importantly -- he can laugh.

"I don't see an opportunity to quit," Reilly said, looking over at his mom. "You wouldn't let me."

"I would never quit on you, Joey," Vough said.

"That's 'cause you rock," Reilly told her.

"No, you rock," she said, grins spreading across both their faces.

Reilly went home to Winslow, Ariz., with his mother on Friday night. He still has a lot of physical therapy to go, but he has also come a long way in the past several months.

He kept the beard growing as a reminder to keep up the hard work during his recovery, he said.

For now, Reilly needs help standing up and relearning how to walk. His speech is slow and his memory somewhat hazy, but both continue to improve.

When he first regained consciousness, he couldn't remember anything that happened after 2009. Now he can remember up to early 2012, about the time he moved to Vancouver.

In an attempt to jog his memory and celebrate his release from the Fort Vancouver Convalescent Center, Reilly and his mom went to Smokey's for dinner on Wednesday.

Dining on Hawaiian pizza, his friends from the restaurant staff kept coming over to joke with him, Vough said.

"He has great friends," she said. "They're all these young guys, and they all laugh a lot, and when you get them together, they get really raunchy."

He doesn't remember working there, but after seeing people Wednesday, he said he remembered several names and the camaraderie he felt with them.

Saying his goodbyes, Dulabon knelt down and talked to Reilly and his mom about the neurosurgeon who wanted to take him off the ventilator when he was first admitted to the hospital.

"Your mother, she wasn't having it. She would not let you go. I'm so glad she didn't," Dulabon said."

"Me too," Reilly said.

Dulabon added that he didn't want to take Reilly off the ventilator either because he'd seen continuous improvements in his status in the ICU.

Both Vough and Reilly said they wanted to thank PeaceHealth Medical Group, Vibra Specialty Hospital of Portland and Fort Vancouver Convalescent Center for their help.

"With each place you go to, you get a little more hope," Vough said. "With this place (the center), now he can stand, do daily activities. This is a very good place."

Elizabeth Crawford, the physician assistant who worked with Reilly through the process, said she was immensely proud of him.

"You did all the work," she told him. "Every day, you showed us something more."

"Thank you," Reilly said.

"Next time you're here, you have to come by the office and say hi to us," Dulabon said.

"Sounds like a plan," Reilly told him.

Vough and Reilly also said they wanted to thank the Clark County community for its continued support, prayers and encouragement through his recovery.

"All I can say is thank you," Reilly said. "I've got to thank everyone, really, from the bottom of my heart."

Reilly said when he's able to live on his own again -- which may still be a year or two away -- he hopes to come back to Vancouver and maybe go back to working at Smokey's.

But for now, he's really excited about going back to Arizona to live with his mom and stepdad, Bob Vough.

"Being back home, that's all I can think about," Reilly said.

Well, that and shaving off his victory beard, he added.

"It's all coming off," Reilly said with a smile.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.